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Section 24(2A) National Environmental Management Act

Section 24(2A) allows the Minister to restrict or prohibit the granting of an environmental authorization (EA) for a specified activity in a specified geographical area, for a period and on terms and conditions determined by the Minister, if this is necessary for the protection of an environment, the conservation of a resource or sustainable development.

Type of legal protection

Some threatening activities that will have detrimental impacts on water source areas are already listed under the Listing Notices published under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2014 (2014 EIA Regulations) (for example prospecting and mining, and forestry). If so listed, these activities may not be carried out without an environmental authorization, in other words an application must ordinarily be made for authorisation to the competent authority (either the Department of Environmental Affairs or provincial environment authorities). Section 24F makes it a criminal offence to conduct a listed activity without an environmental authorization. When the Minister has made such a declaration, the competent authority:

  1. Must not accept any further applications for environmental authorizations for the listed activity in the identified geographical area; and
  2. Must deem all pending applications to have been withdrawn.

Benefits

  • Wide scope: Some activities that threaten the integrity of water source areas are listed activities that require environmental authorization, so the s24(2A) declaration has a broad application to a wide range of activities.
  • Flexibility: The provision allows the Minister the flexibility to specify the activities that may not be conducted in a specific geographical location. This is specifically advantageous because the different landscapes that house water source areas have different characteristics and require different forms of protection as they are faced with different threats. Based on the specific threats to the specific geographical locations, the Minister can then determine the exact activities that need to be restricted or prohibited which will result in clear and effective protection of water source areas.
  • Early protection: A section 24(2A) declaration prohibits the acceptance of new applications and results in the end of all pending applications. This declaration provides protection from the devastating impacts of inappropriate applications on affected communities and those working to protect the environment.

Challenges

  • No protection against previously authorised threatening activities: The Minister’s declaration does not affect activities authorised prior to the restriction or prohibition becoming effective therefore it does not apply retrospectively to listed activities that had commenced prior to the declaration.